The start of something really weird at Hyundai.
Hyundai has gone from strength to strength in recent years. What was once seen as the butt of jokes amongst gear heads has now become the maker of some of the best mainstream cars on sale today. It’s amazing to think that the venture which began thirty years ago with the hideously unreliable Hyundai Excel has now morphed into one of the best-rated car companies operating in the United States.
Gone are the days where Hyundai was deemed the budget choice for people who couldn't care about cars: Now, the company’s a serious thorn in the side of the established likes of Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and Chevrolet. That’s not to say that Hyundai doesn’t have an ill-fitting model in its line-up. As we’ve demonstrated in our recent “Most Unusual Flagships” posts, quite a few car companies have something at the top of the pecking order that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the range, and Hyundai is no exception. And the car in question, you ask? The Hyundai Equus. Much like the Volkswagen Phaeton we discussed in a prior entry in this series, the Hyundai Equus is a high-end limousine with the premium brands firmly in its crosshairs.
The Equus also fits in with Hyundai’s status as a brand you usually associate with unexciting buzzwords like "value" and "sensible" (though the latter might not apply to Equus models with the 430 hp, 5.0-liter V8 engine under the hood). Admittedly, this mega-Hyundai isn’t cheap. You can get many nice cars for the $61,500 sticker price that comes with the base Equus. However, when compared with like-for-like rivals like the turbocharged Cadillac XTS, the Hyundai does look like a decent value. Unlike that aforementioned Phaeton, though, the Hyundai Equus is even more out-of-place than the posh VW was.
Whereas Volkswagen at least had the excuse at the time of becoming a more upmarket brand, Hyundai currently doesn’t have that luxury. That isn’t exactly ideal when you’re trying to market a flagship that costs 50% or so more than your next most expensive model (the $38,000 Genesis sedan, if you’d like to know that little snippet of info). Not that that seems to have put many people off, though. Even though Equus sales are plummeting at a pace only rivaled by the car’s rate of depreciation, Hyundai is still on course to sell more examples of its flagship limo in the States in 2015 than Volkswagen managed to do over the two-and-a-bit years it offered the Phaeton in the US.
There is a reason that Hyundai will be turning the Equus into the halo "G90" model for the upcoming Genesis spin-off range. Even with Hyundai’s forays into ventures you wouldn’t have expected the brand to show an interest in a few years ago, who’d have thought that Hyundai would be competitive in international rallying, for instance, seeing a $60,000+ limo alongside a comparatively puny Accent hatchback can be a bit...well, jarring. Such a move could be helpful for Hyundai’s ambitions of turning the soon-to-be G90 into a genuine Mercedes S-Class threat.
It seems to be working well for Citroen, a French car company that’s split its mainstream and premium models from each other by plonking the latter into the more upmarket DS sub-brand, so there’s no reason why the Genesis brand can’t revive the G90’s chances in the USA. Until that day arrives, though, the G90 will remain a Hyundai Equus. Which makes the Equus (a mainstream car company’s top-of-the-line car that can costs nearly seventy big ones, no less) one of the most bizarre flagship models on sale today.